The creation of novel materials often involves the painstaking and time-consuming synthesis and characterization of a series of samples with small differences. This process is slow and slows the pace of materials innovation. For example, creating sequences of thin layers of metals is an important route to the discovery of new 2D materials for quantum electronics, but it is slowed by the need to explore a large range of thicknesses of the individual layers.
A team of researchers from the Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Education Center (MRSEC) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has designed, constructed, and implemented a new, highly specialized piece of research equipment that can be used to visualize the real-time formation and growth of tiny crystals of novel materials. The unique perspective provided by this approach provides access to new ways to discover and develop materials relevant to electronics, optics, and magnetic applications.
The Wisconsin MRSEC is committed to being a leader in Open Science, which shares data in digital forms following FAIR1 principles. As part of these efforts the Center has developed a new web site, a best practices guide, and held informational events. This year the Center launched the first Wisconsin MRSEC Excellence in Open Science Prize. The winner was graduate student Bradley Dallin2 for his work on molecules interacting with water, with potential applications from understanding human blood to protein folding diseases like Alzheimer’s. Bradley shared his results in papers, but also shared all his simulations and tools in an open accessible format for the community, increasing the impact of his work.
The Wisconsin MRSEC is developing an ultrafast direct electron camera for use on a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) in its Shared Instrument Facilities. One application of the camera will be experiments to map strains – tiny variations in the distance between atoms – inside materials caused by defects in the crystal lattice or interfaces between two different materials. The MRSEC acquired an existing, slower camera to support technique development before the new camera arrives. An example strain map is shown to the right. The gray-scale image is a small Nb particle formed inside a larger Zr crystal. The color image shows the rotation of the Zr lattice caused by the interface between the two materials. Higher sensitivity maps covering larger areas with more points will be possible with the new camera.
The Wisconsin MRSEC’s fourth annual Facilities Day Open House, held on April 12-13, 2018n engaged 165 scientists, engineers, students, instrument vendors, and employees of local companies.
The Share Instrumentation Facilities of the Wisconsin MRSEC provide access to and training on over 100 state-of-the-art instruments for fabrication and characterization of m materials. They are widely used by University of Wisconsin students and staff, researchers from other universities, and representatives of companies throughout the region.